The statue of British naval officer John Hamilton has been removed from the New Zealand city named after him after Maoris threatened to tear it down.
Captain Hamilton – who is accused of killing Maori people in the 1860s – was branded ‘murderous’ and a ‘monster’ by one Maori elder who said he would remove the statue himself before it was taken away by city authorities.
A crane hoisted the bronze sculpture from the town square in Hamilton as a small group of cheering spectators looked on.
Hamilton was a naval commander who fought indigenous Maori defending their land against British colonial expansion in the 19th century.
Workers remove a controversial statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton from Civic Square in Hamilton
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said in a statement that a growing number of people found the statue (pictured being removed) personally and culturally offensive
Cities around the world are taking steps to remove statues that represent cultural or racial oppression as support grows for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd by police last month in Minneapolis.
Demonstrations have taken part across the UK and there are concerns over the protection of monuments after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in Bristol’s harbour.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said in a statement that a growing number of people found the statue personally and culturally offensive.
She said: ‘We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we. At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding between cultures and in the community, I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.’
Hamilton City Council acknowledged the statue’s extraction was part of a push to remove memorials ‘which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression’ sparked by global anti-racism protests.
Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton is accused of killing indigenous Maori people in the 1860s. Pictured is the statue being removed
The statue was gifted to the city in 2013 and the Waikato-Tainui tribe, or iwi, formally requested on Thursday for it to be removed
The city was originally called Kirikiriroa by Maori but it was renamed in the 1860s after Captain Hamilton, a British officer who was killed in the infamous Gate Pa battle in the city of Tauranga.
The statue was gifted to the city in 2013 and the Waikato-Tainui tribe, or iwi, formally requested on Thursday for it to be removed.
City authorities said it was clear the statue was going to be vandalized, after Maori elder Taitimu Maipi this week told news organisation Stuff that he planned to tear it down himself.
Mr Maipi said Hamilton was being represented as a hero when he was ‘murderous’ and a ‘monster’.
‘How can we accept that he’s a hero when he’s a monster who led battles,’ Maipi told the Waikato Times.
City authorities said they have no plans to change the city’s name at this point.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said removing depictions of historic figures was part of ‘a wave of idiocy’ that would prevent future generations learning from past mistakes.
‘Why do some woke New Zealanders feel the need to mimic mindless actions imported from overseas?’ said Peters, who leads the populist New Zealand First Party, a coalition partner in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government.
‘A self-confident country would never succumb to obliterating symbols of their history, whether it be good or bad or simply gone out of fashion.’
Ardern has not yet weighed in on the statue debate but last year ordered that study of the conflict between Maori and British colonialists, known as the New Zealand wars, become compulsory in all schools.
Waikato-Tainui praised the statue’s removal, saying it was discussing other problematic colonial names and symbols with Hamilton council, including the prospect of restoring the city’s original Maori name Kirikiriroa.
‘This was a devastating time for our people and these injustices of the past should not be a continual reminder as we look to grow and develop our beautiful city into the future,’ iwi chairman Rukumoana Schaafhausen said.
Hamilton council said the fate of the British commander’s statue and what, if anything, should replace it were still under discussion.
Hamilton is the nation’s fourth-largest city with 160,000 people, about one-quarter of whom are Maori.
Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton
Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was born on September 28 1820 in Cambridgeshire, England.
At the age of 15, he joined the navy on August 28 1835. He went on to serve in the Americas, the Crimea and in the 2nd Anglo-Chinese War.
He became a Lieutenant on March 8 1844, and a Commander ten years later, on November 27 1854.
In 1863 he was made Captain of HMS Esk. The Esk was sent to New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars.
The New Zealand Wars were a series of armed conflicts between the Colonial government and the Maori people, both wanting control of the country.
At the peak of hostilities in the 1860s, 18,000 British troops, supported by artillery, cavalry and local militia, battled about 4,000 Maori warriors.
Hamilton died at the battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga on April 29, 1864. The Tauranga Campaign was a six-month-long armed conflict over land ownership and sovereignty.
Around 2,100 Maori were killed in the conflicts, as well as hundreds of British soldiers.
In 1855 he married Laura Parry (1831-1918) in Bicester, Oxfordshire and they had three children together.
Hamilton city, founded in 1864 at the end of the Waikato War, was named after him, as is Hamilton Street in Tauranga.